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Richard Gere to visit Buddhist sites in S. Korea

AFP, June 8, 2011

SEOUL, South Korea -- Hollywood star Richard Gere plans to visit South Korea this month to promote his photo exhibition and tour Buddhist temples, a religious official said Wednesday.

Gere plans to tour Bulguksa temple in the ancient capital of Gyeongju, 370 km (230 miles) southeast of Seoul, and take part in an overnight stay programme at the UNESCO World Heritage site, said a spokesman for the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

"We are still in talks with Mr Gere to hammer out details... the final itinerary will be announced next week," he told AFP.

Gere -- a Buddhist and longtime campaigner for the rights of Tibetans -- will also visit Seoul to promote an exhibition of photos he took in Tibet and at other Buddhist-related sites, the spokesman said.

Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Gere will arrive in South Korea on June 20 and meet leaders of the Jogye order, the nation's largest Buddhist sect.

The 61-year-old star of "Pretty Woman" and "Chicago" in 2000 sent a letter to then-South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung asking him to grant a visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The visit was not permitted.

South Korea has about 10 million Buddhists and 13.7 million Christians in its population of 48.6 million, according to the National Statistical Office.

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